Recent developments in alliance formation point to interesting possibilities.
Let’s consider Tamil Nadu first. The DMDK has now allied itself with PMK, MDMK and BJP, eschewing both the DMK and the INC. That makes the contest three cornered. The three corners are established regardless of whether one approaches the problem from conventional wisdom or recent Opinion Poll results. Though the two routes seem to take exactly opposite paths in arriving at the same conclusion. Opinion polls give the BJP 12% and the DMDK 4%. Conventional wisdom would flip those numbers. But regardless, along with the PMK and MDMK, the alliance will probably garner 20% votes any which way one approaches it.
If one wants to be charitable to the INC, one could call this contest in Tamil Nadu quadrangular. But one doesn’t. For the three corners have a vote share of greater than 20% each with the AIADMK crossing the 30% threshold. The INC at its most optimistic best is likely to remain in single digit in terms of vote share.
The hard bargain of AIADMK with the Left suggests, the party (or, the Chief Minister at least) was anyway confident that the DMDK wouldn’t have allied with the DMK. That’d have been the only real threat in terms of conventional wisdom for a significant AIADMK victory. From an opinion poll perspective, the AIADMK will have to worry about either the BJP or INC joining the DMK. Neither of which seem to have fructified. So, Ms Jayalalitha has enough reasons to not part with 6 constituencies that the Left demanded; increasing her own strike rate seems logical in such a three cornered contest. After all, the Left parties aren’t as shameless as say the other smaller parties in the state to jump from AIADMK to DMK in the same cycle. Their threshold for jumping ship, if history is an indicator, is one cycle. Not zero. The DMK’s allies are now a couple of Dalit Parties and a Muslim one. None big enough to threaten the AIADMK in more than a couple of seats.
From the perspective of either national party, this multi cornered contest is ultimately a good thing. For it results in one of the Dravidian parties winning by a landslide based on the election cycle’s dynamic. The BJP will be entitled to think that brings most of the 39+1 seats to their alliance after the elections. The INC will think that takes away most of the 39+1 from the NDA as Ms Jayalalitha explores her own bid. Replace one Dravidian protagonist with the other, the situation for the national parties remains identical. So, they might as well collude to make the contest in Tamil Nadu multi cornered than split the seats between mutually incompatible local parties.
Now consider the newly created State of Seemandhra. Unlike in Tamil Nadu, the contest there has been reduced in dimension somewhat. Or, perhaps not. The contest there was largely bipolar between YSRC and the TDP according to both Opinion Polls and conventional wisdom. And, in both assessments, the YSRC had a significant edge. Now, the dimensions have been further reduced. The TDP and BJP have entered into an alliance.
The extent of BJP’s support base and its tranferability are suspect and the race may or may not tighten. The bifurcation of the states and the TDP’s unviability in Telangana meant the prospect of losing Muslim votes wasn’t a real issue for the party. Therefore the alliance makes sense for the TDP if it wants to tighten the race. The question is — why is the BJP entering into such an alliance? There were originally three major possibilities: a YSRC sweep, a TDP sweep and a split in seats between the two camps. The YSRC sweep had a much higher probability than the other two possibilities. Now, by allying with the TDP, the BJP has probably improved the probability of splitting the seats between two camps. While a YSRC sweep still cannot be ruled out.
As in Tamil Nadu, it’s in the interests of the national parties to have a sweep in Seemandhra by either of these camps so that the entire bounty can be co-opted later. For this to happen though, the national party shouldn’t associate itself with any one of the parties too closely. And especially not with the party less strong — in this case the TDP. Because the best case scenario outcome of such an alliance is worse than than what’d have happened without the alliance. The YSRC, after the TDP entry, simply cannot join the NDA. A absurdly poor choice to have for the BJP. Either the BJP truly believed that YSRC was closer to the INC than what recent political rhetoric suggests or the BJP has incompetent analysts.